Sunday, July 17, 2011

War Stories, A Mother’s Perspective

by Edie Melson

Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home
I remember our son's first deployment, especially what it was like to say goodbye to my oldest son as he left for Iraq. Throughout the last couple days, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Was that the last time I’d eat supper with him?  The last picture I’ll have of him?  The last time I’ll ever see him smile?”

As a military mom I’ve learned it’s important not to dwell on the ‘what ifs.’  But at the beginning of this deployment my heart was aching and harder to control.  Almost of its own volition my mind seems to drift to the endless possibilities with a son in the Middle East.  I wondered what the next seven months would bring.  When would I hear from him?  What was he doing?  And most importantly—was he safe?

I’ve learned many coping techniques in the two and a half years he has served in the Marine Corps.  My prayer life is vibrant and active and my reliance on God is whole.  I’ve learned that the belief I would always be able to protect my children is false.  My son is entirely in God’s hands and always has been.  And I have reluctantly come to acknowledge that is the best place for him. 

While he was on deployment I learned to avoid the major TV networks and newspapers that report the worst of news from all angles and tried to tell me my son was risking his life for nothing. When I heard of protests at local military bases my heart went out to the men and women stationed there.  I know firsthand the hurt and frustration these soldiers feel. They're not the ones who choose the conflicts they’re involved in.  Even as I understood the public’s dissatisfaction with the political situation around us, I wished they'd take it out on those in Washington. 

I stayed in close touch with other military families, because they understood my circumstances.  I found that, in general, military moms aren’t political people and we can’t understand those who are.  For us the war is personal, not a topic to be debated. It’s about our children’s sacrifices; their willingness to put their lives on the line for something they believe in, something we all used to believe in – God and country.  I’m proud of my son, but I’m afraid also.  I realized that was something he'd chosen to do, something he felt he had to do. I just wish he could've served in a way that wasn't so dangerous.  But that choice too, was out of my hands.

As I said goodbye to the strong man my son had become, I remembered the selfish teenager who once thought the world revolved around him. Now he loved his fellow Marines in a way most couldn't imagine.  He put their well-being far above his own and his former narcissism had faded. His life was now one of selflessness and sacrifice.  At the same time he learned to fight and carry a gun, he learned to love his fellow man in a way that few experience. 

So where did I go from there? I continued to hope, and I continued to pray—for a homecoming filled with joy.